Ever heard of sage Agastya? He is one of the seven rishis (Saptarishi) mentioned in the Vedas. Commonly known as Vegetable Humming Bird in English, the Agastya (Sanskrit name) plant derives its name from rishi Agastya. One of the theories states that rishi Agastya, also considered as the father of the Siddha system of medicine held a deep love for the plant, which is the reason why the plant is named so. Dear to the munis, the flowers of Agastya bloom in Sharad Ritu (autumn season) on the day when the Agastya star can be seen. The flowers are also offered to Lord Shiva to please him.
Holding the botanical name Sesbania grandiflora, the plant is known by various other names like Agasti in Hindi. The flower of Agasti is called ‘August flower’ and is found in white, red and yellow colours. Each part of the Agastya plant serves some medicinal purpose or the other, as mentioned in Ayurveda.
Anatomy And Distribution
Vegetable humming bird owes its origin majorly to Australia and South East Asia. Growing in a hot and humid climate, today it is spread in many warm areas across the world including the Indian sub-continent.
Growing up to a height of 3-8mand belonging to the family Fabaceae, Agastya is a short soft wooded plant with nitrogen fixation properties. It is a very fast-growing species and is classified as a deciduous tree. The leaves may be rounded or regular and the flowers that are mostly of oblong shape can be white, red or pink. It bears fruits that are bean-shaped.
Abhidanachudamani or Raja Nighantu, an Ayurveda book by Narhari Pundit classifies Agastya into four categories according to the colour of its flowers – Sita (white), Peeta (yellow), Neela (blue) and Lohita(red).
Sesbania grandiflora leaves and flowers have been found to be rich in –
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B (Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate)
Ayurvedic Properties or Gunadharma
- Physical property (Guna) – light and dry
- Taste (Rasa) – bitter
- Potency (Veerya) – cool
- Conversion after digestion (Vipaka) – pungent
- Effect (Prabhava) – anti-toxic and balances pitta and kapha dosha
Plant Parts And Major Uses
- Root – antipyretic, anti-inflammatory
- Leaf – anti-oxidant, anti-toxic
- Bark – anti-convulsant, anti-ulcer
- Flower – analgesic, anti-cancer, anti-microbial
- Fruit – helps in the treatment of anaemia
Alkaloids, glycosides, saponins, polysaccharides and mucilage
Betterment of gut health
Tannins, gums, resins
Anti-toxic, anti-tumour, anti-viral
Sesbania grandiflora though not grown as a commercial crop serves multiple purposes as it provides food, timber, gum, tannins etc.
Environmental or Agro-Forestry Use
Holding the properties of nitrogen fixation and its fast-growing nature, the plant is often used to improve soil fertility and reforestation. It is also used as a green manure.
Though bitter in taste, all parts of Agastya are edible. The Agastya flowers are used in salads and curries especially in South East Asia. The leaves and young pods too are cooked and eaten as a vegetable. (See recipe at the bottom of the article)
Packed with various macro and micronutrients, the plant is famous for its medicinal properties.
- Oil and gum are extracted from the seeds of the plant and tannins from the bark.
- The plant is also used as a cattle feed and fuelwood.
- According to ancient Indian texts Rasashatra, Agastya was used to weed out impurities from metals. Diamond can be purified in three days from Agastya juice.
The Ayurveda and Siddha system of medicine appreciate Agastya for its myriad medicinal properties. It is mentioned as a medicine in various famous books of the Indian medicine system like Sushruta Samhita and Bhavaprakash. The wide-ranging benefits include:-
Agastya As Tonic
Agastya is known to work as an immune-modulator, that is, it strengthens the immune system and makes it ready to fight against pathogens. Holding the property of removing free radicals from the body and working as an anti-oxidant and anti-toxin, Agastya can be used as a tonic to improve general well being. By removing free radicals and being high in protein content, consumption of Agastya results in a better functioning DNA. Apart from this, different parts of the plant have different anti-microbial effects:
- The leaves and flowers help in fighting against bacteria like E.coli and Klebsiella pneumonia. They also carry anti-viral properties and can be useful in curing viral diseases like herpes.
- Apart from this, the leaves also house anti-fungal properties.
- The root extract has been known to be effective against Tuberculosis.
- Seeds of Agastya are anthelmintic (destroys parasites) work against damaging parasitic effects of helminths like Pheritima Posthuma.
Thus, Agastya as a whole works as a tonic by strengthening the internal functioning of the body and creating a wall of safety against virus, bacteria and fungus alike.
Suggested Remedy: Make powder of dried flowers of Agastya. Consuming one teaspoon of this powder with a cup of milk daily works as an excellent tonic.
The leaves of Agastya work as a laxative and can help in curing regular constipation. They can also be consumed to treat worm infestations and to ease out abdominal pain.
Suggested Remedy: Acharya Balkrishna suggests a remedy for babies facing indigestion. Feed one to two teaspoon August flower extract to the baby. This will help in curing stomach issues and relieving symptoms like abdominal pain and restlessness. Agastya flowers can also be used to make pakoras (fritters) for improving digestion.
Regular consumption of juice of Agastya leaves can provide relief from gastric ulcers.
Agastya For Better Vision
If you wish to improve your vision or treat ophthalmic disorders like night blindness, Agastya is a way to do.
Suggested Remedy: Extract the juice of Agastya flowers and use it as a regular eye drop.
Better Reproductive Health
Agastya flowers can help in the treatment of leucorrhea. The leaves are especially useful to elevate female reproductive well being. Their extract is useful in case of vaginal or uterus infection.
Suggested Remedy: In case of itching or burning sensation in the vagina – prepare a decoction of Agastya leaves, neem leaves and alum. Regularly wash the vagina with this decoction.
Consume Agastya Gulkand if suffering from sexual debility.
Works Against Chronic Fevers
It is the presence of anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, as well as the ability to detoxify the body that Agastya has been proven helpful in breaking intermittent fevers. It not only lowers the body temperature but also works on the root cause of the fever.
For Diabetic And Heart Patients
Regular consumption of Agastya decreases the level of bad cholesterol and triglycerides. Sesbania grandiflora being rich in Vitamin C lowers the risk of high blood pressure and prevents hardening of arteries.
The leaves and flowers have been proven effective in not only reducing blood sugar levels but also repairing the islet cells present in the pancreas if damaged.
Apart from treating various kinds of internal issues, Agastya can be applied externally in different forms. The bark of Agastya possesses astringent properties. Its extract can be useful in reducing the oiliness of the skin and removing unwanted marks. Agastya root and leaves’ paste can be applied on insect bites, bruises and wounds.
Suggested Remedy: Curdle buffalo milk with the help of Agastya flowers and extract butter out of it. Apply regularly on cracked or dry skin.
Other Mentionable Benefits
- Agastya leaves and flowers possess anti-cancer properties and can inhibit the growth of malignant tumour cells. A 2011 study affirms the anti-cancer nature of the plant.
- Agastya has been proven to be helpful against mental ailments and can help in improving memory. It also helps in managing stress and anxiety. Consuming daily can prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disorder. Seeds of Agastya consumed along with honey and ghee can help increase memory.
- Being a storehouse of calcium and phosphorus, Agastya helps in maintaining better bone health.
- Using Agastya leaves juice as nasal drops daily can help relieve sinusitis.
- Consuming Agastya leaves juice daily aids in weight loss.
The general dosage of Sesbania grandiflora:
- Decoction (Kwatha) – 50-100 ml daily
- Leaf juice (Swarasa) – 10-20 ml daily
- Dried flower powder (Churna) – 5-10 g daily
How To Use?
Agastya being a multi-purpose tree can be used in innumerable forms from a regular lunch item to myriad medicinal purposes. The list mentioned below can be useful:-
According to Acharya Balakrishna, consumption of one teaspoon Agastya Gulkand daily can help in improving the general well being of the body.
How to prepare?
- Collect fresh August flowers. Wash them and let them dry.
- Chop the petals into smaller pieces.
- In a glass jar arrange layers of sugar and flower petals.
- Let the jar rest for about a fortnight.
- Gulkand is ready!
Agathi Keerai Poriyal
It is a famous festive dish of South India often cooked on Dwadashi. The spinach-like dish balances the pitta dosha cures constipation and also helps in the removal of kidney stones. However, care must be taken that the dish is not consumed more than once a month.
The Recipe –
- Agastya leaves or Agathi Keerai
- About ¾ cup of soaked moong or urad dal
- Fresh Coconut
- Chopped onion
- Cumin seeds
- Mustard seeds
- Dry chilli
- Heeng or Asafoetida
- 10.Cooking oil
- 11.Salt as per requirement
- In a pressure cooker cook the chopped Keerai with dal. Add some salt and turmeric and let it cook for a few minutes.
- In a pan heat oil and add cumin, mustard seeds, asafoetida and dry chilli. Cook for a few seconds and add chopped onion.
- Cook onion till golden brown and add the keerai and dal.
- Add grated coconut and salt and stir until cooked.
- A tasty Agathi Keerai Poriyal is ready to be served!
Agastya Flower Soup
Agastya flower soup is prepared differently in different areas; however, the health benefits remain universal.
- In a pan add ghee and spices like cumin seeds, dry chillis and turmeric. Roast lightly.
- Fill the pan with a requisite amount of water and let it boil.
- Separate the petals from the August flower, chop them into small pieces and add them in the pan.
- Add pepper, salt and a little jaggery.
- Boil till cooked and the soup is ready!
Side Effects And Precautions
Though there are no major side effects of Agastya when taken according to the prescribed dosage. However certain precautions are mandatory.
- Pregnant ladies must abstain from consuming Agastya in any form, especially the leaves as the leaves are considered contraceptive in nature.
- Consuming more than required might not be much helpful and cause diarrhoea instead.
- It is better to consume Agastya empty stomach and not consume any eatable at least till an hour as it might cause bloating and nausea.
Agastya can be consumed continuously for one to two months or till the symptoms disappear. However, it is better to consult a doctor as every body type is different.